There are two ways to enjoy Polo, another one of those quintessentially English events I love so much - like the Henley Royal Regatta, Horseracing at Ascot, Picnic Concerts and the Wimbledon Finals: you can dress up like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman", buy a ticket for about a hundred quid (be informed that at this price, Richard Gere doesn't come as standard!), and soldier through a probably perfectly forgettable buffet and wine you wouldn't even buy if it was the last bottle on Earth and you were desperate to get over a relationship you (and only you) thought was absolutely perfect.
Or you can sit directly opposite all those beautiful people, spreading your blanket between yours and your neighbours' car (mind you, except for your own, the vehicles we're talking are likely to be the Aston Martins and BMW Z4 convertibles of this world, rather than a dirty old beaten Daihatsu) and enjoy the same view from the cheap ranks. And you still get to "tread the turf" at half-time.
But saving on the entry fee doesn't mean you have to be a cheapskate: it might mean that you're a gourmet on two levels... for the money you set aside, you could afford to splash out on a lunch at the nearby Petersham Nurseries, easily the best spot for amazing food in the South-West of the capItal - and you can also afford decent picnic food for starters! Forget the pre-cut, dried-out carrot sticks and tiny pot of hoummus you picked up from M&S, leave behind the bland-tasting Brussels paté, cheap cheddar and the crackers which are doing their best to approximate cardboard for a taste-experience.
Now, I love a decent ploughman's sandwich as much as the next person, but on such occasions, I think you really should do it in style. Last weekend at the Ham Polo Grounds, I splashed out on the must-have tastes of the autumn: a slice of moist and succulent parma ham, some ripe and runny camembert, a scattering of rocket leaves and a generous helping of the plumpest, ripest figs the stalls have on offer - all wegded into a rosemary & olive piegata, aka as a delicious Italian flatbread. This bread is new at my supermarket: a dough similar to a thick pizza base, but a light and fluffy one at that, at the same time strong enough to hold any filling. It's enriched with rosemary and olive oil and can be used in the same way as you would a pitta pocket... but has more sustenance, more bite and holds its shape much better. Luckily, it is also already folded (as the name suggests), so I don't struggle with it in the same way as I invariably do with my picnic blanket - why is it that I can never seem to fold and put it back in the right way? Almost as difficult as those maps I used to have eternal fights with before we got sat nav...
Fig, parma ham & camembert piegata
4 piegata breads (use pitta pockets as an alternative or ciabatta rolls)
8 thin slices parma ham
2 handfuls rocket leaves
2 large, ripe figs (cut into small wedges)
150 g very ripe camembert
cracked black pepper
Warm the piegatas in the oven so they become more supple and won't tear around the middle as you fill them.
Stuff with 2 slices of ham each, some rocket, some camembert and half a fig each.
Season with cracked pepper.